Every now and then, you may bump into a friend or acquaintance with whom you'd like to reconnect. This person may have resources or connections that can be of value to you in your professional life. If the topic of conversation shifts to what you do for a living, that's when things can get interesting. You can take this opening to market your business or yourself through what is popularly known as an "elevator pitch."
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What Is an Elevator Pitch?
Simply put, it is a brief speech that outlines a product, service, or project in an effort to entice the listener to partake in said product, service, or project. An elevator pitch typically takes 20-60 seconds to deliver — about the time of an elevator ride, hence the name.
Elevator pitches can be used in a variety of circumstances. Entrepreneurs often use them to convince venture capitalists to invest in their startups. Job seekers often market themselves to potential employers through elevator pitches.
The elevator pitch is essentially a self-marketing tool. It tells others what you're all about and why you or your idea is valuable in the space of one short paragraph.
Writing the Ultimate Elevator Pitch
There are many different ways to create a good elevator pitch; the pitch you create should ultimately reflect your business, personality, and/or current situation. The seven steps enumerated below are merely guidelines to creating a solid elevator pitch:
Step 1: Define Who You Are
The first sentence of your pitch should be a proper introduction of yourself. Keep this introduction as short and concise as possible. Stick to necessary, relevant details. There's no need to go on and on about everything in your life.
Step 2: Define What You Do
Your elevator pitch should contain a 1-2 sentence mission statement explaining what you do in your professional life. It should outline what your goal is and how you work toward it on a daily basis.
Step 3: Identify Your Target Audience
If you don't know to whom you are selling, it doesn't matter what you're selling. Identifying your ideal clients/customers in 1-2 sentences will further prove the viability of your business idea.
Note: For job seekers, the target audience will be potential employers in a relevant field or industry.
Step 4: Demonstrate What Makes You Stand Out
Your pitch needs a unique selling proposition (USP), which is the main quality that sets you apart from your competition. This could be a thoroughly refined skill, profound leadership qualities, a specific background, etc. One or two sentences of your pitch should be dedicated to explaining your USP and how it sets you apart from competitors (or other job seekers).
Step 5: State What You Wish to Happen
Your pitch needs a call to action that tells the audience exactly what you want from them. Of course, you don't just blurt out "Give me money for my venture" or "I want a job"; that would be rude and presumptuous. You can, however, ask to schedule a meeting or grab a coffee to chat further.
At the very least, you can ask the person to whom you're pitching for advice on how you can improve your pitch. This way, even if they end up unconvinced, you can still get some useful information from the interaction.
Step 6: Create the Hook
You need to have a clear, big-picture understanding of your pitch before you can whittle it down to a good hook that introduces your premise and draws the audience in. This is why writing the hook comes later in the process.
Your hook should be a sentence or two that piques your audience's curiosity. You may want to pose your hook in the form of a question, as it's a tried and true marketing technique that never gets old.
Step 7: Neatly Summarize Everything
Trim the fat, leave in the most important parts, and wrap it up nicely. Remember that you'll have a minute at most to make your pitch. Every word counts.
Your pitch should also flow nicely. Work with your pitch's form until it feels conversational.
Tips on Improving Your Elevator Pitch
Rehearse and Perfect Your Pitch
Once you have a full pitch drafted out, rehearse it. Don't just memorize it; get a feel for its flow and structure until you can deliver the pitch in a natural and conversational way. The more comfortable you are with your pitch, the less you'll sound like a robot.
You may want to record yourself delivering your pitch. That way, you can listen back and pinpoint the parts still giving you trouble. You can fine-tune both the language and delivery until you have a clear, convincing pitch that flows smoothly.
While practice makes perfect, you don't want to overdo it. Your pitch should not feel rehearsed when you deliver it. You want your final product to feel as casual and natural as possible.
Share Your Skills
When you deliver an elevator pitch, you're not just pitching your idea, but also yourself. (If you're a job seeker, then your idea is yourself.)
Briefly work your qualifications and skills into the pitch by stating what you do and what you can bring to the table. Be brief, direct, and truthful; you don't want to sound boastful. You may also speak of skills and responsibilities you have that are beyond your job description to broaden the audience's image of you.
The conditions under which you deliver your pitch will rarely be under your full control. You need to be able to adapt to whatever circumstances arise during your pitch, including any questions or concerns the audience may raise. Being flexible will help you make a good first impression, and your audience will likely be more confident in you and your value as a result.
Lay Out Your Goals
The journey may be more important than the destination, but the journey also needs a purpose. While you don't want to be too specific in your goals, as that could come across as demanding, you should at least be able to tell your audience what your general trajectory is.
Speak Your Audience's Language
The best elevator pitches help your audience relate to you. If you know the person to whom you're pitching is affiliated with certain groups or industries, you can use relevant jargon and concepts to your advantage. It's even better if you yourself are affiliated with the same groups or industries.
If, on the other hand, your audience is a recruiter or someone whose background you don't know, lay off the jargon. Use straightforward language, as your audience may find specialized language confusing and off-putting.
Have Your Business Card Ready
If the audience is interested in your pitch, they'll want to be able to contact you. If they don't know how, then you've just missed a massive opportunity.
When you hand your audience member a business card after pitching them, you greatly increase your chances of getting a call from them later on down the line. Having business cards ready to go also makes you look more professional and prepared.
Speak at a Casual Pace
While you may have under a minute to deliver your pitch, you don't want to sound like you're in a hurry. You want your audience to have time to digest your message. Relax. Speak as you would under any other conversational circumstances.
Smile and Be Enthusiastic
You don't need to be hopped up on caffeine, but you shouldn't deliver your pitch with a monotone voice. When you speak about yourself and/or your idea, you should exude subtle energy and positivity.
The point isn't just to be personable, but to demonstrate your passion for what you do. If you want to convince people to work with you, you need to prove you genuinely care about your career.
Don't Limit Yourself to One Pitch
It's nice to have a variety of elevator pitches ready to go. That's not to say you need a Swiss Army knife's worth of pitches, but it's likely that you're involved in more than one field, project, product, etc. Show off your versatility by preparing pitches for each important aspect of your career — and choose which pitch to deliver depending on which is most relevant to the situation at hand.
Showcase Your Leadership
Your pitch should present you as a go-to expert in your field who is capable of getting things done and just needs a little help to take your career further. Don't go overboard or brag about yourself. Convey a subtle, sincere, professional confidence.
Tailor Your Pitches
To more specifically your pitch is targeted to each listener, the better. Try to find out as much as you can about a person before delivering your pitch. That way, you can incorporate elements from their life and career into your pitch, which makes you look more thoughtful and convincing.
Real-Life Examples of Great Elevator Pitches
The best pitches focus not on what you do, but on what the listener wants and how you can help the listener obtain that thing. For example:
Ronald Reagan famously asked the American people, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" This call for self-reflection was the core of his campaign for a presidential election he would later win.
Steve Jobs, arguably one of history's greatest salesmen, was also pretty good with elevator pitches. He convinced former Pepsi President John Sculley to leave Pepsi and join Apple by asking, "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"
In an article for The Balance, career expert Alison Doyle offers the following example of an elevator pitch that a recent grad might use:
"I recently graduated from college with a degree in communications. I worked on the college newspaper as a reporter, and eventually, as the editor of the arts section. If you are ever in need of a news writer with some experience in reporting and editing, I'd be glad to lend a hand."
Like Reagan's and Jobs's pitches, this pitch taps into what the listener needs. It's simple and direct, showcasing what the person making the pitch has to offer. If such a pitch is possible from someone who just graduated college, more experienced professionals should be able to do even more.
Writing a great pitch is almost like writing a copy for a product, only that you are the product. Try to cut your pitch down to only the most striking and necessary information.
For instance, Emilie Aries, the founder and CEO of consulting firm Bossed Up, succinctly pitches both herself and her company with: "As the founder CEO of Bossed Up, I help women beat burnout and achieve sustainable success."
In just one sentence, Aries says a whole lot about what she does and what her company offers.
Elevator pitches are all about building bridges to help you chase your dream. Whether that dream is a new job, new clients, new investors, or something else, a smartly crafted elevator pitch can help you attain it.